Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Monday 9/29 ride report

In effort and from a psychological standpoint it was a normal round-trip commute from my house near Conrad Sauer to Texas Southern University; however, there is still much evidence of storm damage from IKE. There are several items to to note on the Westview Dr. portion of the commute. There is a lot of small twigs and other wood fiber debris liberally scattered along the route (not to mention glass) the former of which makes for a bumpy ride. the latter; well, you already know you have to avoid it.

Also, there are portions of the power grid on Westview that suffered damage in the storm and are still not back yet. The section of Westview just before Bunker Hill and the sectionbetween Campbell and Bingle is almost completely without streetlights. The other section of the route that raises concern is Memorial Drive from the 610 loop to Crestwood. There are absolutely no streetlights or park lights activated at this time. It's probably a good idea to avoid Memorial Park in the early morning hours until Houston Looting and Plunder gets around to repairing the power grid through the park. If you decide to chance it and ride at this stretch be sure that you have effective lighting both front and rear so that approaching cars can see you. From Crestwood onwards to Shepherd and eventually to TSU is completely routine.

The afternoon ride I did not come back on the reciprocal route, but I went straight down Alabama/West Alabama to Wesleyan and from there I went north to San Filipe and then westward on San Filipe to Briar Oaks Lane where I eventually worked my way on to Post Oak where I cut over through the neighborhoods to make it to the Tanglewood bike lane that took me to Chimney Rock. From there I continued on northward until the route met up with Westview and westward to home. The distance is equal to doing the reciprocal, but does not require a sprint with traffic through Memorial Park. The one thing I I might add is that the lights in Memorial Park are not functioning and HPD is manning the intersections. I mention this because if one were to chance running through the park in the afternoon you may get waved through the intersections. I have not tried it myself, but I recognized when driving through that the possibility exists.

I'm going to ride on the wrong side of the road today

I'll be riding in the far outside position of a very wide (10 ft wide) shoulder (Clay Rd., east of Eldridge). I think it's safer doing that than crossing 12 lanes of 50 MPH traffic to keep going with traffic. At Eldridge, I will cross as a ped with the signals, then I will be on a path.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Safe Cycling in the Houston Area (Road I)

Date: Wed, Sept 24 (6PM-9PM) & Sat, Sept 27 (9AM-3:30PM)Date: Wed, Oct 22 (6PM-9PM) & Sat, Oct 25 (9AM-3:30PM)

Instructor: Regina Garcia
Location: 851 Dairy Ashford, Suite A, Houston, TX 77079
Fee: $60

Do you want to learn to cycle confidently and safely in the Houston area? Then this class is a must! Learn to communicate effectively with motorists and enjoy the ride. We'll discuss proper lane positioning, basic rules of the road, how to avoid obstacles, scanning, changing a tire, emergency turns, emergency stops, basic maintenance, and much, much more! Wednesday evening will be all lecture (no bicycle needed) and Saturday will include parking lot drills and a group ride.

To register for this course, contact: Bicycle World and Fitness, (281) 556-0923
Email: chris@bicycleworldandfitness.com
Website: http://bicycleworldandfitness.com/index.cfm
Signup required in advance? Yes
Special signup instructions: Call Bicycle World and Fitness at 281-556-0923. They will take your payment over the phone.
Equipment required: Bicycle, Helmet, water bottle

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Folding bicycle adventures

The folding bicycle has turned out to be quite useful in this post-Ike time when I don't want to take journeys on the open road with traffic signals broken. I have been riding 3 miles to a meet-up point, then carpooling the 40 mile round-trip with a woman who works two blocks away from my workplace. We're both getting NuRide.com points. I just redeemed some points today for free food coupons; coffee, kolaches, chocolate, smoothies.

I love the small footprint of folding bikes, even when fully deployed.

I also used the folder on METRO on the Thursday before the storm hit. I took it on the #216 Park & Ride bus, which uses buses without bike racks or storage bins, so folding bikes are the only ones that work on those currently. I also took it on the light rail during the hours when regular bikes are forbidden, but folders are allowed. It's a nice way to get around these restrictions.

On the #216 bus, bike folded and crammed in front of my knee

Bike on light rail, folded and crammed behind a seat near the door

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bike commuting problems

Broken glass and tree debris on the road, traffic signals not working, dark streets... all reasons to be very careful out there!

I've been ferrying back-and-forth with my open-top grocery bag panniers to Randall's and Wal-Mart to get supplies during the emergency; did not have to light up my car once. Still sitting in the driveway with a full tank of gas. Haven't driven it in a week.

I'm still, as always, just about the only bicyclist on the roads. You'd think people would figure it out. Bike = huge advantage during a fuel crisis. Do ya think?

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Review of the Cyglolite Pace 135

First, a little background. About two weeks ago I began having problems with my NiteRider Digital Evolution headlight. The positive and the negative terminals would make contact but not the data line for the "fuel gauge;" consequently, the fuel gauge would do the whole "KITT from NiteRider" routine. An annoying problem, but not a complete ride killer. As a consequence I had to consider a new light for when I send the NiteRider back to the shop.

My long-term lighting plan is to eventually go to Dynohubs and LED lighting (either DIY or B&M Lumotec); however, until my funds caught up to me my plan was to use the NiteRider Digital Evolution until I can get the Dyno wheels built for both my main commuter bikes. As part of my plan I intend to keep my original front wheels for the times that I don't want the additional drag of the generator so I am having to scrounge parts to do what I want to do. The Alpine Monitor Pass requires a silver ARAYA RM20 which has not been produced in over 10 years and I have not come across anything that comes close to matching. or at the worst I will have to rebuild its wheelset with different rims. The Specialized Sirrus 700c hybrid has a similar problem. It came from the factory with Alex R500 rims which is exclusive to the OEM market and I missed out on the only one I've ever seen on eBay (because at the time I thought that I could get one anywhere). So being the hardheaded Cuss that I am I found a wheelset based on Mavic CPX33 rims and Shimano Ultegra Hubs that I plan to use once I can get a cassette mounted and then get another CPX 33 rim to build up Shimano dynohub so at least one of my commuter bikes would be on its way to being fully converted.

Well, with so much work left to go Dynohub and a Niterider Digital Evolution starting to flake out I needed a light so that I could continue commuting by bike and a later be moved to one of my other bikes. I had two main criteria for this replacement light. It had to be cheap; however, good enough quality to last a while and it had to be equally bright as my Digital Evolution. being that I was let down by Niterider as my Digital evolution is just a little over a year and a half old I wanted to go with another company. I received a catalog from Performance Bicycle and saw that they had the Cyglolite Pace 135 for $69 which is extremely cheap. So I figured I would give it a try. Here's a picture of the complete set sans charger.

The Cyglolite Pace 135 utilizes third-generation LED technology and a 4.8 Volt nickel metal hydride battery with no charger regulation. Unfortunately, it is not clear which third generation LED emitter is using, In comparison the Digital Evolution is a halogen-based light and utilizes a 6 V digitally controlled charger. Both lights are rated for 3 1/2 hours of use and that is where the similarity ends.

The Pace 135 weighs 14.2 oz which is significantly lighter than the Digital Evolution. The Digital evolution weighs A heavy 54 ounces not including the 1 m extension cable. Both lights are rated for 3 1/2 hours of use


The Cyglolite Pace 135 charges completely in six hours using an unregulated "wall wart" type of charger which is not bad compared to some of the other budget units out there that require twice that. The one negative to charging the system as I mentioned is the charger is completely unregulated. There is no overcharge protection built into either the battery or the charger and the instructions stress that damage will occur to the battery with overcharging and complete discharging. So it is rather important to keep track of how long the battery unit has been charged and to not forget about it when it is plugged in. On its inaugural charge I turned on a kitchen timer set to six hours so that I knew exactly when to unplug it. It also requires that the power switch which is located on the battery to be in the on position for charging which is easily overlooked. I would like to say that this unit is "idiot proof" but it is not. In comparison the Digital Evolution recharges in 2.5 hours and has a built-in charging protection circuit which is a good thing for I have forgotten to unplug it quite a few times. The Digital Evolution is truly an "idiot proof" design.

The Hardware

The physical construction of the light head of the Pace unit is entirely acceptable and roughly equivalent to the same part of the Digital Evolution. There are two obvious physical differences. The Digital evolution utilizes a integrated pigtail with the proprietary connector on the end to plug into its battery. The Pace uses a barrel plug from the battery that plugs into a female receptacle on the light head. I point this out because it raises the possibility that the Pace could be "hacked" for use on a scratch built power pack or grafted onto a gen hub. The only thing i disliked about the lighthead itself is the mouting bracket is on the flimsy side.


I found the Pace to be roughly equivalent in performance to my Digital evolution. The only real difference that I could discern was that the Digital evolution was the equivalent of daylight florescent or a soft white incandescent bulb in the color spectrum and the Pace was a Cool White like a cool white florescent and to some degree splashed on the roadway looked like a florescent beam. By way of comparison this first picture is the beam pattern for the Digital evolution.

The shot over to the left is the beam shot of the Pace. Note the bluish cast of the light over on the door.

Over to the left is combined shot at both the Digital evolution and the pace 135. The actual light quality is equivalent; however, the color warmth of the two lights is different.

Here is a picture of both light heads running. The Pace is on the left and the Digital Evolution on the right. The bluish color warmth of the pace is evident.


For the money the Cyglolite Pace 135 is an acceptable light for commuting. It has three pluses to its favor. It is lighter in a weight and equally bright to older technology and it's extremely low-cost. It's only weakness is its charger and the fact that there is no protection circuits to protect the battery from overcharging so if you happen to be absent-minded this may not be the light for you.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Why I Ride.

There are many reasons to take up commuting by bicycle. With all the furor over global warming is spurred a lot of those on the left side of the political spectrum to call for the "Greening" of America. I am not one of these. On the continuum of political ideologies I tend to be conservative; however, I am literally an old-school conservative which means I tend to want to conserve things.

I have many reasons for taking up bicycle commuting from a belief standpoint, economic, and health reasons. From a belief standpoint I believe that mankind has a moral duty to be a conservator of the earth and for over 200 hundred years mankind has been consuming fossil fuels like a drunk sailor drinking cheap beer at a waterfront bar. Humankind has been dipping deeply into a limited energy supply without considering the impact on future generations. Before we get too deeply into this I don't buy the whole theory of global warming mainly because I understand what sort of "camel" the loony left is really trying to bring in under the tent.

When politicians like Al Gore sit there and preach at the American public to use less energy while he himself is living in a mansion that uses more electricity in one month than one average person does a year and he sets himself up a for-profit company selling "carbon credits" it's pretty evident to me that reversing global warming is not his real agenda. His real agenda is to have everyone else cut back their use while he and the other "privileged few" continue business as usual. What is really at issue is the development and emergence of an oligarchical one world government. A socialist regime where matters like the environment and wealth distribution is dictated by the privileged few.

The evidence for global warming is rather inconclusive in my opinion; however, I do believe to some extent that what we are doing with the consumption of fossil fuels and the forests of the world is not helping the situation. Nature tends to try to stay in balance and all that released carbon has to go someplace even if it is sinking to the bottom of the oceans and such an overload has to have some sort impact.

From a health standpoint I cycle because when I primarily use my own muscles for propulsion I burn on the average of 1700 calories which I do not do when driving. The human body is an organic machine that is designed to do work. In the time before civilization that work was hunting and gathering then later agriculture. These are activities that consume massive amounts of energy that now because of industrialization our bodies no longer are used to their full potential; however, we continue to feed ourselves with foods of higher caloric content. What is the impact of this? Well, we're seeing obesity at record levels as well as greater incidence of type II diabetes. Since I started commuting I found myself sleeping deeper and better on days when I left the car behind. My metabolism is also much improved. I have considerably less worry of weight gain when on a given day I am riding over 31 miles and I've scrubbed off over 1000 calories or more. I also have a considerably improved outlook on life in general from being out in the sunlight for over two hours every day.